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Taming The Problem Child
BBC2 9.00pm Thursday 8th March 2001
Haley is almost six years old and out of control. She's one of a growing number of children with severe aggressive behavioural disorders. One minute she is hugging her mother, seconds later she is biting and punching her. Her parents have no idea what provokes her explosive rages but her aggression towards other children has put her on the verge of being withdrawn from school. Haley herself has no idea why she is violent. Her parents are desperate. Doctors have no answers.
Sergei is twelve years old. He is withdrawn, depressed and violent.
He was adopted by an American family three years ago from a Russian
orphanage. The only interaction Sergei has with his new family is
through rage and regular attacks. Unless his behaviour changes,
these adoptive parents will relinquish him and Sergei will end up
back in another institution. As with Haley, no treatment, doctor
or psychologist has provided a solution.
One man is offering a controversial solution. Dr Ron Federici is
an American neuro-psychologist who has devised a treatment plan
for even the most extreme cases of conduct-disordered children.
He claims it is suitable no matter whether their behaviour lies
in neurological or psychological problems. Dr Federici believes
that his treatment guarantees two things. Firstly that there will
be an 80% rate of improvement in most children. Secondly, that neither
the parents nor the children will find it easy.
The film follows two families, one British and one American, as
they start to implement the treatment programme under supervision
of Dr Federici himself. For at least a month, each child must stay
within three feet of their parents 24 hours a day. They have to
be totally compliant to whatever their parents want, and if they
refuse to obey they are forced down to the floor and held there.
Their bedrooms are stripped bare. They are allowed no life of their
own. They are never left alone; they are not allowed to play with
or see friends. Through a gradual process of reward and punishment
the child will eventually be reintroduced to their toys, their peers
and the outside world. The treatment can last for months.
At the end of this controversial regime the child's mind should
have been literally re-programmed. Dr Federici claims this is the
only way the child can progress to developing normal emotions. His
critics believe this process may be damaging. But now, thousands
of American families have been recommended by word of mouth to do
the programme. The question is, does the treatment work and should
it be applied?